TV Advertising vs Digital Marketing: Which is Better for You?

Jasmine Toh

“Should I switch my TV advertising budget to Digital?”

Does this sound familiar to you?

You have managed to grow your business by using television ads to create awareness for your brand. It has worked well in the past, but recently, TV ads are getting more expensive and usually only generates less than ten leads per campaign.

I recently chanced upon a video interview with Machine Zone’s Gabe Leydon.

He says,

“Television-style advertising will completely disappear”.

If you are still using TV advertising, it probably scared the wits out of you.

I consider myself a supporter of digital technology, so I couldn’t agree more with him. But if you are still very comfortable with traditional advertising, it might take more to convince you.

So, I decided to compare the two of them and see which one is better.

Presenting to you… TV Advertising vs Digital Marketing: Dawn of SMEs!
Before we go straight into the face-off, let me introduce you to our fight contenders.

What is Advertising?

Advertising is a method of communicating your products/services to your target audience. It is also the form of marketing that pioneer business owners are most familiar with. Common examples include billboards, radio spots, newspaper classifieds and so on… but today we will focus on the good ol’ TV advertisements.

What is Digital Marketing?

If you have been reading our blogs, you are probably no stranger to this term. It encompasses the use of the Internet to communicate with target consumers. Common channels include social media, email, Google search and websites.

Now that we have introduced our gladiators, let the showdown begin! *DING DING DING*

Round 1: Cost  

For TV advertising, you would have to pay tens of thousands of dollars even for a minute non-prime time spot. And that doesn’t even include money going into production.

Furthermore, SMEs don’t have deep enough pockets, brand equity or authority to go against goliath multi-nationals such as Google or Apple when it comes to advertising.

Digital marketing is an umbrella term, so it is hard to give a specific number to the cost. It can be really inexpensive, for example, email marketing or writing a blog has almost no costs at all. A website revamp or a year-long SEO, SEM campaign is more expensive and might cost around $10,000 each.

However, one thing for sure is, digital marketing is more value for money. Online advertisements are usually pay-per-click, meaning you pay only when someone sees your ad. Compare this to TV ads where you spend money without knowing if you target audience even views your ads.

Round 1 winner: Digital Marketing

Round 2: Brand Exposure

TV advertising campaigns typically last for a maximum three to six months depending on the objectives and budget. Once the campaign ends, brand exposure ends as well.

On the other hand, digital marketing that is done well is actually self-sustaining 24/7, even after the campaign has ended!

For example, if you have a landing page that can sell your product like your top salesman, although traffic volume may not be as high after your online advertising campaign, it will still be on the internet forever. This means that prospects can still visit it and your “top salesman” can still do its job even after the campaign is over.

Also, if your business targets millennials, you should understand that most millennials are not watching television anymore. Which brings us to the question, is your target audience even viewing your TV ads?


Millennials are watching video on demand like Netflix, Youtube and so on. In fact, it’s not just them, gen X and the baby boomers watch video on demand too (although it may not be as frequent.)

Ultimately, it still depends on your business’s target audience. Older consumers who are between 46 to 65 years old, still prefer traditional media such as television.

However, as a TV advertiser, your audience is now very fragmented, even a prime time slot cannot guarantee you a reach that you may have enjoyed in the past.

But one thing we know is that majority of Singaporeans can’t live without the Internet, social media and smartphones. So I would still give the win to digital marketing.

Round 2 winner: Digital Marketing

Final Round: ROI

Gabe Leydon said in the video, “once buyers have insights into how their advertising dollars are spent, they will realise that TV ads cannot give them positive ROI.”

The biggest problem with TV ads lies in the lack of transparency and performance measurement data. Business owners find it hard to determine if $10,000 put in TV ads actually brought about $10,000 worth of sales.

Unlike TV advertising, digital marketing can be measured. You can track your campaign results and quantify the price and value of your marketing. This helps business owners to make better decisions that are backed by data.

The main results used in digital marketing are traffic generation, conversion and revenue. If your campaign is underperforming on a certain metric, it’s a clear diagnosis of the problem and you can seek to work on it.

Overall winner: Digital Marketing

Conclusion: The Golden Rule to TV Advertising

Now I’m not saying that you shouldn’t invest in TV advertising at all, each form of marketing has their own pros and cons.

In fact, one of our portfolio businesses, The French Cellar (TFC), actually invested in TV advertising not too long ago.

The 15s TFC Ad appearing on Channel News Asia

The motivation for doing so is because a significant amount was already spent on digital marketing and growth was starting to stagnate.

After buying TV ads, they started to see a greater increase in wine subscriptions


Initial growth was slow since the ads were still gaining traction. But after awhile people started to see TFC as a reputable business, and there was a sharp growth in wine subscriptions.

This is largely due to the halo effect TV ads give. If a business can afford a media spot, one would assume that they are doing quite well. This greatly increases confidence in the company’s products.

For TFC, they have already invested a lot in digital, so it’s easy to find out more about the business via search engines or social media. After a prospect watches the TV ad and is interested to find out more, they probably would do a quick search or visit their website, which further adds credibility.

In other words, TV ads may not work if there is no digital foundation set up for your business.

So if you do decide to invest in TV advertising, follow this golden rule.

“Do not invest in ads unless you have an amazing product and have already maximized spending and measured the results first on digital.”

If you want to spend $X on television ads, make sure that you have already spent $X on digital marketing.